Media - Solar Citizens

Media Releases

Victorian solar households could be getting nothing for their energy exports

31st March 2021: Victorian solar households could be getting nothing for their energy exports

New data out today from Professor Bruce Mountain at the Victoria Energy Policy Centre shows that export income for Victorian solar households could shrink to next to nothing if a controversial plan to charge for solar exports goes ahead.

In his article in The Conversation, Professor Mountain states, ‘From the middle of this year, rooftop PV surplus will provide the typical Victoria household with feed-in income of about $120 per year. The proposed injection charge of $100 will therefore almost totally offset the feed-in income so that households with rooftop PV will effectively get nothing for their surplus PV production.’

“Charging for solar exports is not needed and not fair. Big energy consumers, like coal and gas companies, aren’t charged for accessing the grid so why should Australian solar households,” questioned Solar Citizens’ National Director, Ellen Roberts.

Of all the States, the Victorian government has most strongly taken the side of energy consumers, explaining in their submission to the Australian Energy Market Commission on solar export charging, ‘the Victorian government does not support export charging as the case for implementing this proposal has not been demonstrated at this time.’

“The best way to make the energy fairer is to help all consumers have access to cheap solar energy, not to slam households who have made an investment to get their bills under control,” said Ms Roberts.

“Victoria is leading the country in support for renters and low income households to get solar. This rule change has the potential to derail solar uptake and the progress Victoria is making.

“The rule change the AEMC is suggesting will have major implications for solar households, but will provide a very limited benefit to non-solar consumers. It’s more unhelpful bureaucracy. 

“It’s time for the Victorian government to provide certainty to solar customers and the solar industry and state their opposition to charging for solar exports.”

Ellen Roberts can be contacted for comment at 0408 583 694.

Townsville, Toowoomba Among Regions Getting New Battery Storage

25 March 2021: Townsville, Toowoomba Among Regions Getting New Battery Storage

Solar Citizens today celebrates the Queensland Government’s announcement that five grid-connected batteries will be installed in a trial in locations across the state. 

“Adding more battery storage to the network is a smart move by the Queensland Government because it means we can soak up extra renewable energy, particularly solar, when it’s abundant and then utilise that energy when we need it,” said Solar Citizens’ National Director Ellen Roberts.

“The spectacular growth of rooftop solar and large-scale solar and wind projects means we need more storage coming online so we can use this cheap energy around the clock.

“Battery storage can react to grid disturbances with lightning speed and provide valuable network services as we see the uptake of renewables grow and grow.

“Queenslanders are world leaders in rooftop solar because producing your own cheap and clean energy in this climate is a no-brainer.”

This announcement comes as the Australian Energy Market Commission today released a draft determination recommending that networks be allowed to charge rooftop solar owners for exporting clean electricity to the grid. Solar Citizens does not support this proposed sun tax.

“As we transition our energy system and clean up our power supply, we need to be encouraging more rooftop solar – not penalising people for putting panels on their roof,” said Ms Roberts.

“Rolling out battery storage is one of the key things that state governments can do to assist with network issues and ensure that more households can take advantage of the solar savings.

“Rooftop solar benefits all energy consumers by providing cheap power to the grid for everyone to use.

“The Queensland and Victorian Governments have already publicly stated their opposition to the sun tax, but now we urgently need all of our State Energy Ministers to step up and protect solar owners from this discriminatory charge.”


The trial locations are as follows:

Black River Substation – Townsville

Tanby Substation – Yeppoon

Bargara Substation – Bundaberg

Torquay Substation – Hervey Bay

Torrington Substation – Toowoomba

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Media contact: Ellen Roberts
0408 583 694

MR: Solar Citizens condemns plan to charge solar households for exporting to the grid

Key Points:

  • The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) has released a draft ruling to allow networks to charge solar owners to export their power to the grid.
  • Charging households to export their power is an unfair measure that will increase payback periods for installations and may discourage more people from investing in solar.
  • Rooftop solar benefits all energy consumers by providing cheap, local energy and pushing down wholesale power prices. It is unfair to charge solar owners to export clean energy, when large generators, like coal and gas fired power stations, aren’t charged.
  • Solar Citizens’ National Director Ellen Roberts and solar owners in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane and Hervey Bay are available for interview. Contact: Ellen Roberts 0408 583 694
Media release - Solar Citizens condemns AEMC decision to allow solar export charges

Australian Energy Market Commission's (AEMC) draft decision to charge solar owners for sharing clean power with the grid is Australian transition is yet another handbrake for Australia's energy transition, Solar Citizens have said following today's announcement.

‘As we transition our energy system and clean up our power supply, we need to be encouraging more rooftop solar - not penalising people for putting panels on their roof.

’Rooftop solar benefits all energy consumers by providing cheap power to the grid for everyone to use,’ said Solar Citizens National Director Ellen Roberts.

‘Big coal and gas generators aren’t charged for exporting their power to the grid, so why should we be slugging Aussie families with panels on their roofs?'

‘The Queensland and Victorian Governments have already publicly stated their opposition to the sun tax, but now we urgently need all of our State Energy Ministers to step up and protect solar owners from this discriminatory charge.’

'If we want to look at equity in the energy system, let's look at the big players like energy retailers making big profits, not Mums and Dads with solar.'

‘Solar Citizens’ analysis shows that it’s mostly lower and middle income earners who are putting solar panels on their rooftops to cut their energy bills and do their bit for the environment.’

Geoffrey Shepherd is a pensioner and solar owner from Hervey Bay in regional Queensland and is concerned about new charges when he is on a low feed in tariff for the power that he does produce.

‘As a pensioner, it’s potentially going to impact me financially. I spent $6000 on my solar system, and I’m being hammered because I’m only getting 8c [per kWh] for my electricity via my feed in tariff – I’m lucky if I get a shirt button back from my solar!’

‘Picking on people who are trying to save the planet and save money for themselves, especially people such as my wife and I who are retired, it doesn’t seem very fair.’
Peter Youll, a retiree and solar owner in North Western Sydney also doesn’t think the decision is fair.  

'We’re in a block of townhouses and the energy I export is consumed by my immediate neighbours, so my impact on the grid is negligible. I don’t think it’s fair that I should be charged for providing this service, especially when large generators don’t have to pay.'

'If this tax is introduced, then I’ll be doing whatever I can not to export anything at all.'  
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More background:

Currently in the Australian Electricity Rules, networks are prohibited from charging generators, including small scale generators such as solar households, fees to export their power. Under this new proposal this prohibition will be removed from the rules giving networks the power to charge solar owners network fees for export. This will apply only to small scale generators, but not large scale like big coal and gas power stations.

This is not the first time the AEMC has proposed this change, but it has been defeated previously given the need to incentivise rooftop solar and ensure a decent return for solar households.

Export charging is at the request of the distribution networks, who claim that solar is impacting the network.
Media contact: Ellen Roberts 0408 583 694

Solar thermal back on the table for Queensland

22 March 2021: An agreement between state-owned Stanwell Corporation and Vast Solar for a feasibility study into the North West Queensland Hybrid Power Project was today welcomed by community group Solar Citizens. 

Across the country the profitability of coal generators is taking a hit and here in Queensland we’re not immune,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens. 

The energy system is shifting more rapidly than many people imagined and to date the Queensland Government hasn’t been keeping up.

“When our ageing coal plants start dropping like flies we’ll need clean, on-demand energy to fill the gaps – and for that we need to follow in NSW’s footsteps and get serious about rolling out more energy storage.

“Solar thermal is a very exciting technology that can provide clean energy around the clock, although it is disappointing that Vast Solar’s proposal also includes expensive gas.”

In NSW the State Government is pushing forward with a 2GW long-duration energy storage target to provide grid services and firm the many clean energy projects that are proposed across their regions.

“We’re still waiting for a report that the Queensland Government committed to commission back in 2017 that would assess the options for deploying hydro storage in the state,” said Ms Gray. 

“The transition is here and if we don’t properly plan for enough clean energy generation and storage to take the place of retiring coal stations it’s consumers that will suffer.”

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Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

Renewable Industry Can Power 11,000 New Queensland Jobs

9 March 2020: Renewable Industry Can Power 11,000 New Queensland Jobs

Regional Queensland is well-placed to capitalise on the world’s shift to a clean economy according to a new report, which found 11,000 jobs would be up for grabs if Townsville became a renewable energy industry precinct. 

The report, commissioned by community group Solar Citizens, analysed several advanced manufacturing and industry projects proposed in the Townsville region that would help underpin the world’s transition to a low carbon future. 

According to the report, these projects would provide a $154 billion economic boost over their lifetime and provide over 3,950 ongoing jobs if they were powered by renewable energy projects.

“Queensland has all the ingredients for a bright economic future. We’ve got some of the world’s best solar resources that can be turned into abundant cheap electricity and key minerals needed to manufacture technology like battery storage,” said Solar Citizens’ National Director Ellen Roberts. 

“Across regional Queensland there are already industry proposals that would see renewable hydrogen and battery storage materials produced right here.

“In particular Townsville and Gladstone can be thriving renewable industry hubs if all levels of government work together to facilitate projects going ahead and ensure there’s enough clean energy projects coming online to meet growing electricity demand.”

The projects analysed include the proposed Renewable Hydrogen Hub and Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct. Well over 3GW of new clean energy generation would likely be required to power these new industry projects – which is equivalent to powering 900,000 homes. 

“Building out Renewable Energy Zones with solar, wind and storage is a key step towards providing around the clock cheap energy for proposed and existing industry,” said Ms Roberts.

“More renewable energy projects means more jobs, and cheaper energy that can keep new and existing manufacturing industries globally competitive.”

Many of the manufacturing proposals across North Queensland are being driven by the increasing global demand for clean technology such as battery storage for households and electric vehicles. 

Queensland Pacific Metals’ proposed Townsville Energy Chemical Hub Project (TECH) is one of the industry proposals moving forward in North Queensland that would see electric vehicle battery materials produced locally. QPM has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the proposed Majors Creek solar farm and they’re working with James Cook University to establish if the TECH project can be a world-first and produce almost no waste. 

“Queensland Pacific Metals business is built on sustainability – our processing methodology is far superior to alternatives for the production of nickel and cobalt chemicals for lithium-ion batteries,” said CEO Stephen Grocott.

“Townsville is an ideal location to produce critical chemicals for batteries because of its existing infrastructure, services and availability of skilled labour.

“The world’s transition to electric vehicles will result in unprecedented demand for nickel, in particularly the battery chemical nickel sulphate. This provides an exciting opportunity for Australia to become a major supplier of critical chemicals.”

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Media contact: Ellen Roberts 0408 583 694

Full report available here, as well as the report summary here.

Federal government needs to step up to support North Queensland manufacturing

Solar Citizens has today called on the Morrison Government to invest in vital infrastructure in North Queensland that will enable low carbon manufacturers to set up locally, as part of their commitment to developing manufacturing in Australia. 

“Right now several companies are looking to establish manufacturing and processing plants around Townsville to supply critical materials and help the world transition to a low-carbon future. Industry is moving however the Morrison Government is yet to deliver funding for key local infrastructure,” said Solar Citizens’ National Director, Ellen Roberts. 

“Townsville can be a renewable energy industry and hydrogen powerhouse. North Queensland has a rich supply of minerals needed for the global transition and some of the world’s best solar resources.

“The local council is establishing a cutting-edge eco-industrial hub that will largely be powered with cheap solar energy, but the Federal Government is yet to come to the table with funding.

“If we want more manufacturers to set up shop in strategic North Queensland then the government needs to work with local councils and the state government to rollout key infrastructure, like renewable energy zones that will provide low-cost energy.

“Here in Australia, we’re blessed with incredible solar and wind energy resources. We should be harnessing this for abundant affordable electricity for new industries.”

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For comment call Ellen Roberts on 0408 583 694.

Queensland State-Owned Coal Generator Looks to Renewables

Solar Citizens today congratulates Queensland’s state-owned generator Stanwell for moving quickly to identify high quality renewable energy projects that could be added to their portfolio. 

Stanwell Corporation is undertaking an expression of interest process, following the State Government’s allocation of $500 million to the Renewable Energy Fund for more publicly-owned clean energy generation. 

“For decades Queenslanders have voted to keep the majority of the electricity system in public hands, but so far it has mainly been the private sector that has seized the opportunities to develop and operate new solar, wind and storage plants,” said Solar Citizens’ National Director Ellen Roberts.

“Labor’s $500 million Renewable Energy Fund was a very welcome first step, however we’ll need to see a lot more investment in publicly-owned solar, wind and storage projects as coal assets edge closer to retirement.

“We’ve just recently seen the state’s coal and gas assets decrease their value by a whopping $1 billion as more cheap solar and wind energy comes online. It’s likely that they’re heading for early retirement. 

“The state-owned generators need to act fast to diversify their revenue to continue to provide returns for Queenslanders. 

“Investing in more publicly-owned clean energy generation will deliver long-term rewards for all Queenslanders, as the profits go back to funding vital services like schools and hospitals.” 

Government's EV Strategy Still Has One Foot on the Brake

5th February, 2021: Government’s EV Strategy Still Has One Foot on the Brake

The Morrison Government’s new EV strategy will leave Australia in the dust without fuel emissions standards and an EV target, says community group Solar Citizens. 

“Our transport emissions are growing rapidly, and this strategy is nowhere near enough to keep them in check,” said Solar Citizens National Director Ellen Roberts.

“Other countries are charging ahead, but at this pace only 26% of new cars will be EVs by 2030. We need it to be at least 75%, preferably higher. Other countries have effectively used fuel emissions standards to drive EV uptake.” 

“Electric vehicles are the future, they can run on clean solar and wind energy and are cheaper to run and maintain. Cleaner air is better for our health, climate and hip pocket.”

“Switching business fleet vehicles to EVs is a start, but without fuel emissions standards and an ambitious EV target, there’s still a long road to go.” 

"Australians love their rooftop solar, which is a great energy source for electric vehicles." 

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Queensland’s Coal and Gas Plant Profitability Plummets

February 4 2021: Queensland’s coal and gas plant profitability plummets 

Findings of a new report released today from the Queensland Audit Office demonstrate why the Queensland Government urgently needs to plan for the transition of the energy system, with profits from state-owned energy companies plummeting $1.5 billion in 2019-20.  

Off the back of the results, community group Solar Citizens say the Queensland Government needs to plan for early coal retirement as the influx of cheaper renewable energy means a decline in coal profits is inevitable.

“Coal stations aren’t very flexible, so when Queensland’s hundreds of thousands of solar rooftops are generating cheap energy during the day, they can lose a lot of money,” said Solar Citizens’ Queensland Campaigner, Stephanie Gray. 

“Solar and wind projects are the cheapest form of new energy. The transition is here and it’s now being driven by price.

“It’s absurd that the Queensland Government is still expecting coal plants that are bleeding money to run until the end of their technical lives. Taxpayers will be funding polluting coal stations to stay online decades after they’re profitable. 

“It’s in the best interest of Queenslanders if the state and federal governments plan for a rapid transition to clean energy. They need to be upfront with the community and provide certainty for workers who will be affected by inevitable generator closures."

Key report findings:

  •  In 2019–20, the energy entities recorded a combined profit of $204 million. This was a decrease of $1.5 billion (88 per cent) from the previous year. This profit reduction was largely due to the generators (CleanCo, CS Energy and Stanwell), because of lower electricity prices. 

  • Due to coal and gas generators being able to recover less than their current value, generators wrote down (decreased) the value of their power stations as follows: 

    • Stanwell: $720 million (19 per cent of total assets)

    • CS Energy: $353 million (15 per cent of total assets) 

  • Queensland’s wholesale electricity price fell on average by $27 per megawatt hour (33 per cent) compared to 2018–19. This is largely due to more cheap solar and wind energy coming online. 


Full report here.

Bowen Backs Clean Energy Funds

Solar Citizens welcomes this morning’s news that Shadow Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen will continue to back Labor’s opposition to the Morrison Government’s attack on clean energy funds. 

“The Government is trying to use the Grid Reliability Fund Bill to undermine the independence of  the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and use it to bankroll their disastrous gas-led recovery,” said Ellen Roberts from Solar Citizens. 

“Gas is not a low emissions technology and investment in new gas isn’t necessary for emissions reduction or the transition to clean energy.” 

“We support additional funding for the CEFC and investment in grid reliability and security, but not at the cost of turning the CEFC into a fossil fuel slush fund.”

“The CEFC, along with ARENA, have an unbeaten track record in supporting the growth of renewables, and are now the last meaningful federal clean energy policies in Australia. If the Government is serious about investing in clean energy technology, they’ll stop this backwards attempt to cling to gas and slow down the energy transition.”

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Media contact: Ellen Roberts 0408 583 694